September 28, 2012
A Tip for Tuesday – Avoid Groupthink
October 2, 2012
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By now, everyone has probably heard about Friday’s high-speed chase in the Phoenix-area that ended with the suspect taking his own life…live on TV.

Yep, that’s right.  Fox News was high above the skies of Phoenix, live, during the incident.  And although reporter Shepard Smith was calling for the tape delay, the control room missed the urgency so this unfortunate incident was broadcast while it was happening.

"We really messed up, and we're all very sorry," Smith said.

Fox apologized for showing the violence on air.

"We took every precaution to avoid any such live incident by putting the helicopter pictures on a five second delay," said Michael Clemente, executive vice president of news editorial. "Unfortunately, this mistake was the result of a severe human error and we apologize for what viewers ultimately saw on the screen."

Why is a high-speed chase worthy of national news coverage in the first place?  I understand why our local affiliate was up there, but was it necessary for it to be live on national television? Just because the media has the ability (and I guess, necessity) to be Johnny-on-the-spot, there still needs to be a moment when the producers, editors, reporters, etc. think about the news value of the story and whether the viewing public really needs to see that at that exact moment.  Yes, a car chase may be newsworthy.  Yes, the suspect taking his own life is part of that story.  But, I for one have no need to see it live while it is happening.

I get this was a mistake, and one I hope Fox learns from, the other networks, too. But “mistakes” like this will continue to happen if we don’t remember one of my favorite expressions “just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.”


Curious what you think?

Abbie S. Fink
Abbie S. Fink
Vice President/General Manager Abbie has been doing public relations her whole life…from organizing a picket line in 6th grade to organizing client communications today. She’s passionate about a lot of things, you’ll see. Check out Abbie's full bio


  1. It used to be that a mistake on TV was only seen by those who were tuned-in at the time. It’s a much different world today. Once an incorrect report, or the tragic end of a high-speed chace, gets out – it’s tough to put the toothpaste back in the tube!
    While a huge percentage of TV news reports ARE accurate and newsworthy, I wonder if an incident like this has news producers squirming about – or at least re-evaluating — their stations’ own determination of what constitutes “news.” Has “seeing news happen in real time” become one of the descriptions of what news is today? And, do high speed chaces belong in the category of rush-hour crashes and roll-overs when it comes to what actually IS news?

  2. Mimi says:

    I missed this. I would be the last person on the planet to be watching Fox News live unless it is playing in a waiting room…or a bar…but that’s another story.

    Here’s what I think or what I fear. They will just try to find more opportunities because it caused such a sensation. I have this sinking feeling that they’ll use footage from the incident (sans the actual moment of the shooting) as a trailer saying “Real life live–Fox News.” because it is more about ratings and entertainment than journalism, facts, or anything resembling integrity.

    Whew…I feel better after that little rant.Who knew so much skepticism could be bottled up in an otherwise perfectly positive package, eh Abbie?

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